Equities lacked clear direction in a week which was decidedly mixed as far as commodities were concerned. On the bigger stage traders continued to fret over the state of the global economy. Even so, gold edged lower to US$1,532 per ounce while silver held firm at US$36 per ounce. Platinum fared better, rising to US$1,828 per ounce, and palladium climbed to US$813 per ounce. Copper slipped to US$9,016 per tonne, or US$4.09 per pound, while nickel reversed its downward trend to climb to US$22,905 per tonne. Zinc also strengthened, rising to US$2,272 per tonne.

Amongst the majors, Xstrata slipped 2.2 per cent to 1,333p, Rio Tinto edged higher to 4,111p, BHP Billiton rose to 2,308p and Anglo American rose to 2,946p. Commodities trader Glencore climbed 2.1 per cent to 516p. Two miners resumed operations after resolving labour disputes. Following the dismissal of workers taking industrial action at its Karee operations, platinum miner Lonmin has largely completed the recruitment of replacements. Production at Karee has now resumed and is ramping up, although management estimates that full-year sales will be around 30,000 ounces lower than previous guidance. Sales for the year to September are now expected to total around 720,000 platinum ounces. Lonmin’s shares closed 7.4 per cent lower at 1,460p.

Cluff Gold also successfully resolved a labour dispute. Normal operations have resumed at the company’s Kalsaka mine in Burkina Faso. The company also stated that the disruptions have not affected the company’s production guidance of 70,000 ounces from Kalsaka in 2011. The shares recovered 12.7 per cent to 95.75p.

And in a dispute of a different kind, in the boardroom, the murky tale of ENRC continues. ENRC lost a lot of friends when it sided with the Congolese government in the sequestration of the Kolwezi tailings project from First Quantum. That prompted a US$2 billion lawsuit from First Quantum, which is pursuing the case from the safety of the British Virgin Islands. Most recently, two independent non-executives have been voted off the board, exacerbating a sense of unease in the market about the company’s corporate governance. The stock exchange said that the company was not in breach of any rules, but the uncertainty continued on Sunday as a report that Glencore was considering making a takeover offer appeared in the papers. ENRC shares dropped by more than 50p to 742p.

In gold exploration, Patagonia Gold provided a positive update from its Monte Leon gold-silver prospect in Santa Cruz province, Argentina, where drilling has intersected wide, near-surface zones of potentially bulk mineable gold and silver over a strike length of one kilometre. Markets wanted more, though and the shares slipped 7.5 per cent to 40.25p.

In Ghana, Goldplat published a technical report on its recently acquired Banka project in the Ashanti gold belt. The report suggests that Banka offers significant potential for an upgrade to the current non-JORC compliant resource of 262,107 ounces of gold. The shares closed 3.3 per cent lower at 11p.

In South Africa, Pan African Resources announced encouraging results from drilling the at Bramber tailings dam at the company’s Barberton operation. If viable, production from tailings could increase output from Barberton by 20,000 ounces per annum, which should lift total output comfortably above 100,000 ounces. The shares stayed firm at 10.75p.

Away from gold, uranium investor Kalahari Minerals announced a resource update for the Husab uranium project in Namibia in which it holds a 42.76 per cent interest via an investment in Extract. The total resource has increased 33 per cent to over 500 million pounds of U3O8, and Husab is now recognised as the world’s fourth largest uranium deposit. The shares edged higher to 234p.

The challenges continue for African Barrick Gold. Just weeks after its North Mara mine in Tanzania was attacked by 800 intruders in an assault that left seven intruders dead, the company has had to refute media reports that Tanzania is to impose a mining super profits tax similar to that proposed in Australia. The company asserted that its mineral development agreements cannot be amended without its agreement, although the market wasn’t convinced and the shares closed nine per cent lower at 411p.

Another miner facing potentially heightened political risk is Minera IRL, whose operations in Peru could be vulnerable should the newly-elected leftist government decide to impose populist policies. The market was relaxed about the threat, though, and the shares strengthened 2.2 per cent to 71p.

EMED Mining has long suffered government delays to the planned reopening of the Rio Tinto copper mine in Spain. Nevertheless, detailed geological investigations have identified significant underground mining potential for the project once it does get up and running. The shares closed 3.3 per cent lower at 10.4p.

The week's political challenges didn’t deter two miners from floating on the Alternative investment market. First came Strategic Minerals, which raised £750,000 through a placing at 5p to fund the next phase of exploration at its magnetite iron ore exploration project in northeast Queensland, Australia. Then on Friday, Touchstone Gold raised £10 million through a placing at 27p to fund exploration and development at its Rio Pescado project in Colombia. Strategic Minerals closed the week at 12p and Touchstone Gold at 30.9p.

However, it wasn’t all good news on the fundraising front as Nautilus Minerals was forced to abandon its substantial Canadian fundraising as a result of poor market conditions. The company remains debt-free and holds cash of US$139 million as it works to bring its first sub-sea project to completion. The shares slumped 18 per cent to 135p.

Several miners were on the acquisition trail, including Sable Mining Africa, which acquired a 49 per cent interest in the Lubimbi coal project in Zimbabwe. Historical work here has indicated an in-situ resource in excess of one billion tonnes and the company is planning an immediate exploration and development programme. The shares slipped 1.3 per cent to 19.75p.

Meanwhile, coloured stones specialist Gemfields entered into a conditional agreement to acquire a 75 per cent interest in a ruby deposit based in the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique. The consideration of US$2.5 million will be paid in stages. Gemfields shares gained 1.4 per cent to 17.75p.

In South America, Orosur Mining has entered into an agreement to acquire a 100 per cent interest in the Talca gold property in Chile for a phased consideration of US$7.6 million. Orosur also announced a US$13.5 million placing at 66p a share. The shares slipped 0.5 per cent lower to 70.63p.

Finally, GGG Resources gained 7.1 per cent to 26.13p after it extended the closing date its off-market takeover offer for partner Auzex Resources until 4 July 2011.


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